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Revenge of the Cootie Girls

by Sparkle Hayter

In 1995, Sparkle Hayter won the Arthur Ellis Award for her inaugural Robin Hudson mystery, What’s A Girl Gotta Do? The third book in the series, Revenge of the Cootie Girls, is more guide to girl world than murder mystery. It’s filled with references to everything from the first (and my favourite) chick flick, The Women, to Epilady Hair Removal Systems. Somewhere in between, there’s a Nancy Drewesque mystery that gives Robin and her glorious gal pals – Sally, Claire, and Tamayo – an excuse to go on zany adventures in the Big Apple.
It’s Halloween night. News reporter Robin Hudson returns from Los Angeles to discover that Kathy, the network’s innocent young intern from Nowhere, Florida, is late for their girls’ night out. Robin’s friends tell her she’s overreacting but Robin, being Robin, senses that something is amiss. She learns that Kathy was last seen taking Robin’s place in a celebrity scavenger hunt, but when Robin retraces Kathy’s steps it’s Julie, her estranged school buddy, she finds. Robin and Julie are the “cootie girls” of the title, the nerdy girls that were teased and ostracized in school. But Robin hasn’t seen Julie in 10 years. Why would she turn up now? And where is Kathy?
Obviously, perhaps too obviously, the real story here is not the disappearance of Kathy or the reappearance of Julie but how to maintain healthy female friendships. And Robin is no Mary Ann Williamson. Her friends alternately annoy her, bore her, and worry her silly, the result being friendships that are more mosh pit than delicate ballet. But after almost three decades of female victims, abuse, self-actualization, and relentless “support, understanding, and acceptance,” it’s rejuvenating to read about some good, old-fashioned girl culture. The language is fresh, the references are pop, and the point of view is gung-ho. No, it’s not trenchant, but it’s a good read if you’re sitting around a laundromat waiting for your jeans to dry.